The article considers the challenges involved in measuring the performance of local public service networks through an empirical analysis of Comprehensive Area Assessments (CAAs), a short-lived but pioneering attempt to gauge the effectiveness of local governments, health trusts, police and fire services in England.
Primary data about the implementation and impact of CAAs were gathered using a mixed method approach, including surveys of local public services, inspectorates and residents together with focus groups and semi-structured interviews in 12 case study areas.
CAAs encouraged agencies to strive to achieve better partnership working but did not provide sufficiently robust comparative data to enable managers to benchmark their performance against other areas or identify good practice elsewhere. Policy makers hoped that citizens would use CAAs to hold services to account but the process failed to attract media or public interest.
The logic of a more ‘joined-up’ approach to performance assessment of local partnerships is compelling. But in practice it is difficult to achieve because institutional arrangements at a national level mean that different sectors work within very different budget systems, professional networks and performance frameworks. Assessing the outcomes achieved by local partnerships also presents new challenges for inspection agencies and requires them to use new kinds of evidence.
This is the only attempt to date to evaluate CAAs and adds to an understanding of the challenges of assessing the performance of local public service partnerships. It highlights new questions for researchers and policy makers about the types of evidence needed to measure partnership performance and the extent to which the public may use the results.
Martin, S. and Downe, J. (2014), "Performance Measurement of Local Public Service Networks", Public Value Management, Measurement and Reporting (Studies in Public and Non-Profit Governance, Vol. 3), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 43-64. https://doi.org/10.1108/S2051-663020140000003002
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